Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Researchers Try to Shed Light on Secret Canadian Cold War Archive

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Researchers Try to Shed Light on Secret Canadian Cold War Archive

Article excerpt

Researchers trying to get secret federal archive

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OTTAWA - The prime minister's bureaucrats are hoarding a trove of decades-old records that chronicle Canada's Cold War intelligence history, say security researchers who are pushing to make the files publicly accessible.

They're puzzled as to why the Privy Council Office has not handed the extensive collection -- which touches on everything from Iron Curtain defectors to possible Soviet invasion -- to Library and Archives Canada for preservation and public release.

"I think Canadians have a right to understand their history," said Alan Barnes, a senior fellow at the Centre for Security, Intelligence and Defence Studies at Carleton University's Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. "To allow the government to hide this history away for their own convenience, it defeats the whole purpose of having an archival system."

Barnes cites the importance of government transparency in urging people to sign an online parliamentary petition to the prime minister aimed at ensuring people will be able to see the documents.

He became aware of the records while serving in the Privy Council Office's intelligence-assessment secretariat, where he worked from 1993 until his retirement in 2011.

The records were invaluable to historian Wesley Wark when he was asked in the late 1990s to write a classified history of the Canadian intelligence system in the decades following the Second World War.

A draft of the book-length study was disclosed through the Access to Information Act in 2005, though considerable portions -- including an entire chapter -- were deemed too sensitive to release.

Wark's project provided some unusual glimpses of Canada's post-war intelligence efforts.

The study revealed that Ottawa accepted some 30 defectors from Soviet and Communist Bloc diplomatic and consular missions between 1945 and 1952, and that Canadian spies secretly analyzed Soviet movies during the Cold War in the hope of gleaning useful intelligence. …

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